I was robbed at gun point three summers ago.
I haven’t talked about it a lot.
I surely haven’t written about it.
And when I rarely tell the story to my friends, I pass over it like it wasn’t a big deal.
But this week at camp, after a serious of events with a camper, I found myself with a deep fear resurfacing that I knew all too well.
The darkness terrified me in the days following the robbery. I didn’t sleep. I was paranoid to go anywhere by myself. I was always overly aware of my surroundings and a stranger talking to me put me on edge.
Monday night, I found myself in that place again, dominated by fear, but in a different way. I will not disclose full details for the sake of the anonymity but just know this… the enemy is real and he is doing everything he can in some of these campers to pull them as far away from the light as possible. Because of that, I found myself stepping into darkness Monday night. Experiencing it in a way like I never have before. It was as if I had been submerged under water or as if someone had their hands around my throat because I couldn’t breathe the whole night.
That is what darkness does. It takes the breath out of your lungs, even to the point of making you feel like you didn’t even deserve to have the breath in the first place.
As the days have passed since then, every night I find myself lying awake in my bed, with such a sense of fear encircling me, fighting sleep. I didn’t realize it at first but this was Deja Vu.
I pass over things so quickly. I take on this persona of invincible. Yes, life is hard, but it will not knock me down. It happened, but I’m okay. It’s like the Lord had to take me back to the very place I was three summers ago to remind me that there are moments in life that you can’t just put some cheap knockoff brand concealer on and keep going. Instead of allowing myself to be weak, I put on my armor and ran back out to the battlefield because God was going to use this. Because God always uses the pain right?
God can’t use the pain if you don’t ever allow yourself to feel the pain.
That summer night in Atlanta I was broken. I was hurt. I was terrified. I was confused. I had questions as to why. I replayed the event a million times in my head but you would have never known because I hid it from the world. After a while, I even hid it from myself. I was fine.
This week…it’s as if I finally ran out of the concealer and for the first time I was operating out of my complete weakness. Something unlocked in me and the response was pure weeping. I know scripture says weeping lasts for the night and joy comes in the morning. However, this past week it was weeping through the night into the morning.
There I stood, puffy eyes and all, as my team asked me if I was okay. I responded, “no.”
We hear all the time that a “yes” brings freedom but for me that “no” brought more freedom than I have ever had. Here is the thing, despite being in this place, I still had a sermon to preach. Nothing in me wanted to take the stage. Nothing in me wanted my team to see me as I was, let alone a room full of girls. Nothing in me wanted to go open God’s word. Nothing in me even wanted to move.
But I think that’s what dealing with pain is. It’s taking the stage. It’s letting people see you right where you are at. It’s opening God’s truth when you don’t want to. It’s moving, even if it’s the slightest bit.
God can’t use the pain if you never feel it but He also can’t use the pain if you never go through it.
Tuesday morning you would have found me side stage, face down, whispering the words, “God, I have nothing to offer today. So if you don’t speak this room is going to be silent.” I had to fight to take those next steps as I walked out onto that stage.
That morning was the morning that the truth “When we are weak, He is strong” became not just something I read but something I lived.
Our weaknesses are not setbacks but instead, they are setups for the Lord’s strength to be displayed in our lives like never before.
Your life will never meet its full potential; Jesus will never be displayed in His fullest capacity, through you, if you never take the posture of weak.
People say pain is a lot of things. But I have a new perspective on pain this week. Yes, pain is a platform that gives you a chance to offer a “me too.” Yes, your deepest pain can become your greatest ministry. But pain is also an invitation for you to finally realize you do not have to be strong. Pain is a tender whisper into our striving that He will do even more when we are weak. Pain is a tap on the shoulder, while we run a marathon trying to do things for the Lord, reminding us that He is displayed even more when we decrease.
Pain, pain has been my reminder this week that I can be human. Pain has been my reminder that He doesn’t need me to do anything. Pain has been my reminder that at my weakest He is not disappointed in me but instead, He is magnified in me.
There is a reason that scripture says He is near to the brokenhearted [Psalm 34:18]
Pain draws Him even closer to us. Pain is not hindering you from impacting the kingdom of God. It is actually doing the complete opposite. It’s propelling you forward into possibilities. Your pain, your broken heart, it draws Jesus in even closer, giving us the opportunity to experience His presence unlike ever before. As He draws near to you; you draw near to other people. Then they too get to step into the presence of the Living God.
Oh dear child, to run from your pain is to run from the chance for Me to be near to you.
Pain has never been about you being put on a pedestal for people to sympathize you. Pain has never been about God punishing you. Pain has never been about the platform that it very well can give you. Pain has always been about proximity.
If we are living a life of true surrender, we are daring to say we don’t care what it is, we just want to encounter Him. We just want our lives to bring Him glory. We just want others to come to know Him. That’s means shifting from “anything but this” to “even if.”
Even if you make me experience the deepest pain, I don’t care. I just want to be close to You. I just want to encounter You. I just want people to come to know You. Even if that is by the pain that I walk through.
Here me when I say this, I know this is so much easier said than done. But the truth still remains: we need to be people of the even if. Being people of the even if is to be people of the “Your will be done.”
Even if I don’t get the job.
Even if the marriage isn’t fixed.
Even if I don’t land the scholarship.
Even if the diagnosis comes back positive.
Even if I walk through the valley of death.
I just want to be close to you. I just want to encounter you. I just want people to come to know you. Even if that is by the pain I walk through.
Being people of the even if is to be the people that don’t pick and choose when they will devote their lives to Jesus. It means day in and day out, claiming the truth of who Jesus is and declaring it to the listening world. It means that your circumstance will not be a variable in the equation.
Now early in the morning, as Jesus was coming back to the city, He was hungry. Seeing a lone fig tree at the roadside, He went to it and found nothing but leaves on it; and He said to it, “Never again will fruit come from you.” And at once the fig tree withered. Matthew 21:18-19
Jesus is again on His way to Jerusalem from where He was staying in Bethany. On His way, both Matthew and Mark record that He was hungry and saw a fig tree in the distance that had leaves on it. Upon arriving, He sees that the fig tree has no fruit and curses it. However, it was not the season for a fig tree to even be bearing fruit.
The season of life you are walking through does not give you the go ahead to disconnect from the vine. The season of life you are walking through does not give you the excuse to stop bearing the fruit. A life of remaining in Him is a life that bears the fruit despite the season.
We need to people of the even if. We need to be fruit bearers’ year around. However, we are not capable of manifesting that belief in ourselves. What we can do is acknowledge when our belief is diminishing and beg Him to build it back up in us. I think that’s the biggest challenge we as believers face when walking through the pain. The acknowledgment that we aren’t doing as well as we want to be and because of that we walk around with little faith instead of allowing Him to help our unbelief.
I am learning the first step to processing and dealing with the realm of pain is to simply just admit it is there. After recognizing it, we must step back and see how it has actually affected us. We long for healing but with the denial of effect the pain had, it hinders you from healing. Just as a doctor has to know where the wounds are to treat you, you have to be aware of where your own wounds are so you realize what you are even asking for.
Outside of Jesus, there is no healing or answers for the pain. The moment we as humans try to provide reasons of explanation for someone else’s pain, with our own thoughts, is the very moment that we intensify what is already there.
I don’t have the answers for you. I don’t even have the answers for myself. What I do have is a person. What I do have is the realization of the truth: Jesus endured the greatest pain so we would have the possibility of a personal relationship with the Father and not just one at arm’s length.
Pain bridged the gap and provided a nearness that we never had. Pain is a doorway for Jesus to be near to you.
What the enemy meant for evil, God meant it for good [Genesis 50:20]
Jesus takes the pain and works it for our good and I think one of the main ways He does that is by drawing so near to us when we are in the heartbreaking times. Satan thought he won that night in Atlanta and Monday night at camp. I won’t deny the fear, the darkness, the hurt, the brokenness. I won’t deny the pain. But I also will not deny the presence of the Lord and the complete dependency on Him that came with such freedom. I won’t deny who He is. Light of the world. Jehovah-Rophe – my healer.
When we are weak, He is strong.
He draws near to the brokenhearted.
Your pain does have a purpose. He will grant you the understanding of it when the time is right.
But know this, all of our pain has one similar purpose and that is the proximity it allows us to have with the Father.
To be close to Jesus is a gift. Therefore, pain is a gift.
Jesus, we are desperate for you to make us people of the even if. Give us the courage to be weak. Give us the courage to feel the pain. Give us the courage to recognize the pain is there. Create in us a spirit of gratitude for the painful moments of life.
We know the place we want to get to. We know the truth. We see the finish line but we have to take the first step. This was me taking the first step. This was me saying there is a deep hurt inside of me that I have denied for so long. Denying it made me miss not only the chance at true healing but also to see the fulfillment of His promise; He draws near to the brokenhearted.
Whatever it looks like for you, take the first step today.